At 60, Praveen Kumar Soni is eagerly waiting to witness another chapter of Indian cricket unfold.
As a 25-year-old ardent cricket fan, Soni was at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to watch the first ever floodlit white ball one-day international, between India and Australia, on September 28, 1984 – good six years after the glamorous version of international cricket was first played at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia.
After 35 years, he is ready to see the country host its first ever pink ball Test at the Eden Gardens here on Friday.
“Fantastic atmosphere. I remember cover drives from Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar. Also, a tremendous catch by Graham Yallop (at gully) to dismiss Dilip Vengsarkar.
“It was great to be part of history -- the first ever floodlit ODI match on Indian soil. A new cricket culture had arrived. I will be at the Eden Gardens for the pink ball Test,” Soni, now the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) media manager, told Sportstar .
However, Soni pointed out that the stands of the huge Nehru Stadium were filled only 60 per cent, perhaps due to the ‘skepticism’ of the cricket purists.
Another Delhiite, Surender Khanna, the Indian wicketkeeper in that match, shared his experience of keeping to white ball under lights.
“It was an artificial turf but the lights were magnificent. I had no trouble spotting the ball. The ODI against Australia was as good as any other match. There was the novelty of floodlights, there was history.
“The only minus point was when the fielder had to spot the ball in the air with the lights in the background. You had to wait for the ball to descend to spot it. Otherwise, it was an unforgettable experience,” said Khanna, who incidentally coached the Delhi in the Ranji Trophy final against Bombay when the match was played under lights at Gwalior in 1997.
The first white ball ODI in the country also brought good tidings for umpire Piloo Reporter, who made his international debut in that match. “What excitement! It took a few deliveries for us (umpires) to settle down and then it was fine. I remember giving an early decision – caught behind. Light was fine. We had a superb turn out. For me, it was memorable, because both the teams complimented me for my work,” said 81-year-old Reporter.
As the Eden Gardens is all set to script a similar history with the pink ball – first experimented in Adelaide, Australia, in 2015 – the cricket fraternity in India will keenly watch whether the idea can bring back the spectators for the longer version of the game.